14 Jan 2014

Is Expensive Skin Care Worth It ?

Skin care ! It is one of the most advertised categories on any media. I cannot watch more than five minutes of television without seeing an advertisement about a fairness cream, an anti-aging cream, sunscreen, body lotion, face wash etc.
The exponential growth in marketing has created a "need" such that demand for these products has increased. When I look at any store, I can see skin care in all price ranges. The question is - is this really worth it ?

Most creams and lotions have a base, glycerin, some form of alcohol and water. A lot of creams and lotions have an ingredient list at the back which is something I love reading. My doctorate is in pharmacology and I have made a living out of reading ingredients.

Antioxidants like vitamins are helpful for the skin but they are not going to give anyone a major transformation the way the advertisements promise. The funny thing is, antioxidants have always been a part of our lives but they have recently started getting a lot of press. We have always used vitamin A, B, C, used things like olive oil and sesame oil in one form or another. The same stuff goes into a cream and becomes extremely pricey. Is our skin benefitting when we eat an antioxidant ? It sure is ! When we eat an orange, add good oils to our food, eat ghee (clarified butter) our skin is being supplied with antioxidants. Do we need a cream or a lotion at all ? This is also questionable. Creams and lotions certainly moisturize but do we all need moisturizing? I am not sure I can answer this question. I have known plenty of people who have never used any kind of external moisturizer and their skin looks great. Confession - I use a moisturizer every day for the feel good factor but I do not spend on expensive skin care. A basic cream is enough for me.

Another product advertised heavily is a face wash. You can find face washes infused with citrus fruits, antioxidants (of course !), olive oil, floral extracts etc etc. Most research now concludes that a face wash has little contact time with your skin and cannot have much of an effect. Conclusion - one does not really need a face wash. If you think, it is hygienic to have one, please purchase a gentle and simple one rather than an expensive one. Confession - I use a basic cleansing shampoo as a face wash.

Lip Balms and Petroleum Jelly - Petroleum jelly and lip balms are advertised heavily and have many varieties available. As a pharmacologist, I swear by petroleum jelly. It is excellent when kids get a diaper rash; it is excellent for dry, flaky skin; it is good for people with psoriasis and of course it is good for dry lips. I use petroleum jelly as a lip balm but avoid expensive lip balms which promise tall claims. Most people do not need a lip balm but if you have dry lips and need a remedy, it is a good product.

Sunscreen - This is another product which is advertised heavily. Wearing sunscreen helps avoiding skin cancer but try not to overdo it. The sun rays provide us with Vitamin D and some bit of sun exposure is important. I have an indoor job and I do not wear sunscreen everyday. I recommend sunscreen for people who are exposed to the sun.

So what is the conclusion of this article - you do not need to spend much on skin care. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and the rest of the things are optional and on a need basis. Save money and please do not spend it on products that promise a major transformation. 


  1. Hi Divya,

    Nice article! I agree with most of what you write and I have an additional observation. Since time immemorial people have been living their lives without rubbing all this fancy goop on themselves. Perhaps more importantly, their lives were not seriously affected without them. For example, even my grandparents never knew about these lotions and their skin was perfectly fine.

    I understand that a few people with serious skin issues would need these creams, but certainly not the percentage of the population currently using them.

  2. Hello AA, I truly appreciate the comment and agree with you whole heartedly.

  3. Hi Divya,

    Over the years, one gets so used to the expensive creams and lotions that we do not stop to think about the age old sesame and mustard oils. This article has just reawakened our memories on our own great oils.
    Yes, i completely agree that Petroleum jelly is excellent as a lip balm, so is coconut oil.